Thursday, May 18, 2017

Julius (Juke) Bartels - Part 3

Part 3

I entered the world on October 2, 1953. At that time, my dad was 34 years old and already responsible for caring for my mother, 4 sisters and 3 brothers. A daunting task upon my reflection, but I am guessing he did not think of it in that way at all. That was his life. He loved us and worked night and day to provide for us. But he was tired a lot and could take a nap anywhere.

My earliest memory of my dad is when I was probably 4 years old. He was milking one the cows and I was standing behind him watching. He was not using all of the teats of the utter and I ask him if he every squirted the little one in the back. He proceeded to use it, but instead of directing the milk into the pail, he shot the milk at me, some hitting me in the face. We both laughed and he continued with his work.

My dad had a great laugh, a rather robust one. I can still hear his laugh, and the sound of his voice, hidden somewhere in my brain. I wish I had a recording of his voice, but sadly I do not. One keen memory I have of my dad's voice is when he would call the cows back to the barn at the end of the day. His strong baritone voice called out "coo-boss" (that is what my young ears heard anyway). Looking up the dutch word for cow I see that it is "koebeest" ) Anyway, it was amazing to me as a kid that he would bellow this out a couple of times and sure enough, the cows would start making their way from wherever they were in the pasture back to the barn for feeding and/or milking.

Being one of 10 children that grew up in the house meant that one on one times with dad were very rare. A very memorable time for one of these occasions was a blustery winter day when just dad and I went ice fishing. I am guessing I was only 6 or 7 years old.  It was one of those crystal clear colder than cold winter days. Dad cut the hole in the ice and we hovered over it and waited. I don't think we lasted long as I got rather cold and we caught nothing.  I recall him talking and me listening as we waited.  I do not recall the topics he talked about, but the time alone with him was special. It is the one and only time I ever went ice fishing. I don't think dad ever went again either.

Dad was a physically strong man. A life of farming and working at the Western Foundry in Holland seriously toned his muscles. He would pick up a burlap bag full of feed in each hand and swing one at a time over each shoulder. I don't know how much they weighed, probably 80 to 100 pounds each. It was impressive to me and as a lad and I wanted to be that strong some day, but that never happened. For some reason my muscles did not get all that toned sitting behind a desk.

To be continued...................................

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Julius (Juke) Bartels (Part 2)

Part 2 - Juke Bartels - The WWII years
This part of the blog really isn't a blog at all, but facts I pulled together primarily out of my mom's diary for the years 1944 and 1945. Despite the fact that my dad was supporting a wife and 2 children at home, he was drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1944. With the nation at war for over 2 years, more servicemen were needed, and he was "called up"

Part 3 will kick off my memories of my dad. 

Juke was stationed at the following Army Air Corps bases:

1)    Fort Sheridan, Chicago (Boot camp)
June 23, 1944 to September 3, 1944  

Truax Field - Madison, WI: a major school operating at Truax AAF for training radio operators 
September 4, 1944 to January 18, 1945 and 
October 13, 1945 to December 16, 1945

Boca Raton, Florida - Boca Raton Army Airfield - 
February 26, 1945 to October 12, 1945

Below is an exhaustive list of dad's days leading into his involvement with military life during the war and all his travels during his enlistment. It is hard to imagine how he was able to make the trip home so often with gas rationing occurring. Since I made all these notes I thought I would share them. It is rather mundane info and may not be all that exciting to read, but it was obviously very important to him to get home as frequently as possible.

1)      From Mom’s Diary and other resources:
            -Dad received his A-1 card on March 31, 1944
-June 7, 1944 dad was in an accident (auto?). He was injured and stayed in bed 2 days (my comment - he was always an aggressive driver)
-On June 10, 1944 he received a letter from the Army informing him that he will soon need to report for duty
June 15, 1944, Uncle Dave (Vander Kooi) left for the Army (per an interview with Uncle Dave on August 17, 2010), he said that he and Dad were at Camp Sheridan at the same time, and confirmed that they did not arrive on the same day.
-Dad left on June 21, 1944. For the 2 nights prior to him leaving, “the house was full of lots of company”
-June 23, 1944, he returned home for two days (my note: he probably reported to Camp Custer in Battle Creek first, came home for a day and then left for Fort Sheridan)
-Dad was to move to a new camp (Truax Field, Madison, WI) around August 29, 1944
-Dad arrived at home by train in the morning and left in the afternoon of September 3, 1944 for Madison
-Dad came home Sept 10 & 11 (it was my brother Chet’s birthday). Arrived by train and returned to camp by plane.
-On Sept 24, 1944, dad came home in the early morning hours and mom & Chet traveled back to camp with him. They went downtown Madison together and ate dinner there on September 26 and moved into a cabin on the 27th through October 5

-October 18, 1945 Dad arrives home via train
-Dad returned home by train on October 25, 1944 and went back to camp the same day. Mom fell and was injured. She went to the doctor on October 26.

-November 1, 1944 dad was home again arriving at 1:30 in the morning.
-November 8, 1944 dad was home again arriving at 1:30 in the morning once again
-Dad came home again on the 16th and returned to camp on the 18th.
-Nov 19, 1944, dad was home again. They picked him up from (the train station) in Holland
-Nov 25, 1944, dad came home during the night again and returned to camp on the 26th
-Dec 3, 1944, dad was home again
-Dec 24, 1944, dad was home again but returned to camp Christmas night
-December 30, 1944, dad home again & took the train back to camp on January 1, 1945
-January 12, 1945, dad is home again
-January 16, 1945, dad called mom & told her that he was going to be transferred to Chicago, Ill (Fort Sheridan?) soon. He was transferred on January 18, 1945

-Dad came home on the following Sundays and returned to base the next day
            -January 28, 1945
            -February 4, 1945
            -February 11, 1945
            -February 18, 1945
            -February 25, 1945
-Dad left for (Boca Raton) Florida on February 26, 1945
-March 15, 1945; Mom goes to the hospital; Judy and Joyce are born
-March 19, 1945; Dad arrives home on the 9:15 train
-March 22, 1945, mom returns home from the hospital
- April 6, 1945, Dad returns to camp in Boca Raton
-May 7, 1945, mom comments about VE Day (“the war in Germany is over”)
-June 6, 1945, Harris Scholten took dad’s car back to camp
-June 9, 1945, dad is home
-June 14, 1945, dad returns to camp
-October 12, 1945, dad transferred to Truax Field (Madison, WI)
-October 14, 1945, dad is at home for less than a day and takes the car back to camp
-October 19, 1945, dad arrived home at night and returned Oct 21, 1945
-October 26, 1945, “Dady came back home again” (Dady was always with one “d” in mom’s old diary) and returned to camp by bus on Oct 28
-November 3, 1945; Dad came home during the night and returned to camp by train the evening of Nov, 6
-November 8, 1945, dad is home, but left for Muskegon on Nov 9 (apparently in route to Madison?)
-December 16, 1945, Dad is on this way home and stopped at Chanute (Air Force Base, Rantoul, IL); mom is snowed in
-December 20, 1945, Dad is home to stay!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Julius (Juke) Bartels - Part 1

Julius (Juke) Bartels - my dad (Introduction)

I have thought about my father much more often in the last 6 years than I did, let's say, in the previous 20 years. The primary reason for this is when I turned 57 years old in October of 2010, I became the same age my father was when he died. The fact that this was all the days that he was given here on earth made a big impact on me. I started to reflect on my dad's life much more often that year and since. So, I thought I'd try to capture some facts, thoughts and memories regarding him.

First, some background facts about my dad prior to my arrival here on earth:

He was born on June 24, 1919. His father Charles had been recently discharged from the army following the WWI Armistice. The family lived in Muskegon for the first 2 years of his life and then moved to West Olive, Michigan. Julius graduated from the 8th grade in 1932 which was the end of his formal education as a young man. He is standing on the right in back row of his graduation photo.

I do not know all that much about the years between 1932 and when he married my mother in 1940. I understand that as a young man and the oldest son on a farm during this depression era, he would have been working hard to help the family make it through that difficult time. However, when he was almost 17 years old he was hired as a farm hand at a farm in Overisel (about 15 miles from home).  His duties there included milking the cows twice a day as well as other farm chores. This was in exchange for room and board and meager wages.

I know that in his teen years, he also had time to learn how to play the guitar.  He was in some type of band that wore very snazzy apparel.

About 1935

About 1936
Although he kept a guitar around the house for most of his life I never heard him play it. I believe my sister Joyce has this stringed instrument now. I also have a photo of about 100 youth, all holding some type of musical instrument, in a large meeting room with dad standing in the back row with his guitar. He must have enjoyed playing, but my thought today is that with the demands on his time to provide for 10 kids, playing guitar is something he just did not have time for.

My dad met my mom at a Christian Endeavor meeting (the youth group of the day) at Ottawa Reformed church. This was a quiet and proper place to meet. However, based on the stories shared by my Uncle Dave Vander Kooi (see previous blog post regarding this interview) my dad also had a bit of a wild side. This is also confirmed by comments my mother made in her latter years in life. As teens, dad was a good friend of mom's brothers Egbert and Dave. At first her opinion was that she would never date him, but obviously that viewpoint changed with time. By 1958, at just 38 years old, my dad had fathered 11 children.

First date photo

I cannot help but marvel at dad's hair at this point in his life. The "first date" photo, the head shot below and the family photo all demonstrate what I mean..... I am jealous. I wish I had even a small portion of that thick hair today.

Left to right: Tony, Bell, Roger, Kay and Juke
Not long after their marriage, they moved from a house with indoor plumbing to the farmhouse that I grew up in. The "new" house had no indoor plumbing, and would not for several more years, just a few years before I was born. Dad worked at Western Foundry in Holland during the day and toiled on the farm the rest of the day and often into the night. As I sit here on the couch tonight and I think about how long and hard he work, I am awed by his perseverance.

To be continued.................................

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Egbertje J. Vander Kooi - my great grandmother

I have the honor of having two of my great grandmothers live to be 100 years old. That is rather special since the average life of a woman for that generation was about 65 years. Both of these woman lived as widows for about 35 years following the death of their husbands.

On my fathers side of the family, it was Klaasje (Clara) Troost Bartels. She immigrated to the US from the Netherlands as a youth and married John Bartels. I knew her as a child and youth. In fact, I was 21 when she passed away in 1974. I wrote about her life in previous blogs.

The other great grandmother that live to be 100 is on my mother's side of the family, her name was Egbertje J. Bloemsma Vander Kooi. Although she died in 1958, 5 years after I was born, I never met her as she remained in the Netherlands her entire life.  Egbertje gave birth to 13 children. Yes, 13, Wow! Her second child Johannes (my grandpa Vander Kooi) immigrated to the US in 1903 when he was 21 years old. I learned from older relatives that he only traveled back to the Netherlands two times to visit his mother during the rest of his life. The story about one of the trips is included in the blog related to an interview I conducted with my Uncle Dave Vander Kooi. In addition to Johannes, 3 other of her children immigrated overseas, one to the USA and two to Canada. It would have been difficulty to see your children leave, more or less permanently from your life.

Based on research that some of my relatives that still live in the Netherlands completed, I have learned a little about my great grandma's last years. It appears she was quite a woman. A few newspaper articles about her 100th birthday and her death tell us a little about this dutch woman and matriarch.

From a newspaper article in the "Leewarder Courant" dated October 10, 1957:

"Grandma Eibertje celebrates her 100th birthday"
In honor of the 100th birthday of Mrs. E. Vander Kooi-Bloesma, Grandma Eibertje, the flag was placed on the Tower of Dronrijp. Also, many inhabitants of the Village had placed a flag at their homes. Many came to congratulate grandma and she cheerfully accepted all of the best wishes. Mayor D. Torensma addressed the centenarian on behalf of the village government of Menaldumadeel and presented her with an envelope and its contents. The commissioner for the King of Friesland, Mr H. P. Linthorst Homan, was unable to be there due to official business, but he sent best wishes in writing. In the evening, both the local music bands and the Christian Choral group honored Grandma Eibertje.

There was an additional newspaper article published the next day in the Franeker News:entitled "Enormous interest for 100 year old Grandma Eibertje"

Some additional information from that article includes the following:

No one on Tuesday needed to doubt whether there was sufficient interest for the centennial observance of Grandma Eibertje. It was not only because of the large number of flags waving in the village, but also the red, white and blue flag was waving at the "Old White" in the autumn sunshine. [non-translation note of my relative; "The Old White" is the Reformed Church in Dronrijp that Grandma Eibertje and some of her family attended - it is a large white building used to celebrate the occasion] It was filled to the rafters.  She was filled with joy celebrating with her family and a table was filled with fruit, flowers, telegrams, letters and gifts. The mayor made a short speech and said Eibertje was "an example of vitality".

Other facts learned from research and obituaries includes:

At the age of 20, she married my great grandfather, Jentje Douwe Vanderbilt Kooi, on August 8, 1878. This was not her first marriage as she was previously married on July 15, 1877, but her first husband died 2 1/2 months later on August 4, 1877. I will need to research as to how he died.

She almost always wore a traditional dutch Frisian headpiece. This usually had gold ornaments on each side. She is wearing one of these headpieces in every photo I have of her.

One obituary states that she passed away unexpectedly on February 27, 1958. "She was having her morning tea with her daughter and suddenly became ill and succumbed to a stroke that she did not survive". The article goes on to reflect on her recent 100th Birthday celebration stating "In our thoughts we look back to her beaming face when fellow villagers, family and friends presented her with their gifts and congratulations. How energetic she was".

She was hardly ever ill and was remarkably alert for 100; she could walk well and knit up a storm.

I wish I had met this woman who was loved by so many.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Reflections on WWI

My very first blog back in 2010 was regarding the last living veteran of WWI. He has now past away. However, my focus has once again returned to this "War to end all Wars." I am current reading "Last Post: The Final Word from our First World War Soldiers" by Max Arthur. Max is an Englishman who interviewed 21 British World War I veterans still alive in 2004. At the time of the interviews, these men were aged 104-109. Max did a good job capturing their memories of that long-ago struggle. I am also viewing a documentary entitled "The Last Voices of WWI" that interviewed vets from 1998 to 2001.

These veterans served in the infantry, the RFC (air force) or Royal Navy. The accounts of life in the trenches by the 'Poor Bloody Infantry' are challenging to comprehend. The mud, lice, stench, the filth and the times of boredom were mixed with death from artillery shells, snipers, nighttime scouting patrols and possible attach by either side. One vet commented that during the 3 years he was at the front, he bathed only twice. That is just not comprehensible to us today. Another commented that he did not have lice, "the lice had him". He said he could somehow tolerate the constant shelling, the continual threat (and sometimes reality) of the poisonous gas, the mud, the overwhelming odor of rotting horses and sometimes bodies from "no man's land" etc., but the lice nearly drove him mad.

A third vet said he never stopped thinking about (at 106 years old) his brother who was at his side when they "went over the top" in an attach against the German lines. He saw his brother fall but could not stop to help him. He found out at the end of the day that his brother had been killed. "It broke my heart when he died. I would have liked to die with him, but I didn't and here I am today."

In the documentary, one of the vets started to tell about how shrapnel from one artillery shell killed 3 of his friends. As he spoke, this 105 year old man broke down and said he never before was able to talk about that dreadful day in his life.

In reading and listening to these accounts, I am humbled by their sacrifice and greatly admire these old soldiers. Here we are almost 100 years later, and life is so very good for most of us here in the U.S. This is in part a result of what these brave young men were willing to endure to maintain freedom and restore peace, albeit temporarily, within the world that they lived.  As I reflect on the almost 120,000 U.S. soldiers that died in WWI, I cannot help but feel that all in all, little has changed here on earth when it comes to mankind's inability to live peacefully with each other. War continues, and men continue to kill each other. Several of the interviewees commented on that fact and made statements as to how useless war really is. Although I love to study history and the wars that raged, I have to agree with them.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mexican-American War

Mexican-American War Cliff Notes: I have been reminded lately that it has been a LONG time since I have been back to this blog. So I thought I would share some insights I learned from 2 books I recently finished about the Mexican-American War (1846-1847). I think if you asked the average American citizen on the street (if there is such a thing) if the United States ever fought a war against Mexico, most people, if they were honest about it, would say no or they don't know. I doubt if Jay Leno would know either without referring to his staff of writers. The Civil War that began barely a decade later overshadows this time in history. At the time this occurred, many called this conflict President Polk's War and felt it was very unjust. My understanding of the cause of the war was the debate as to where the southern border of the US terminated and were the lands of Mexico began. The US understood the border to be the Rio Grande River (as it is today). Mexico understood the boundary to be the Nueces River that is about 100 miles farther North. Both nations sent troops to enforce their competing claims, and a standoff ensued. Finally in the Spring of 1846, the Mexican troops ambushed the American troops on soil claimed by both countries. Eleven American troopers were killed and the war was underway. President Polk eagerly sought this war in order to seize larger tracts of land from Mexico. So if I have not lost you yet, here is a Cliff notes review of the war. The Mexican-American War was the first major war driven by the concept of "Manifest Destiny"; the belief that America had a God-given right to expand the country's borders from 'sea to shining sea'. President Polk had an aggressive expansionist policy. Also during his term the Oregon question was settled (the U.S. and Britain agreeing to divide the Pacific Northwest between them at the 49th parallel) and for the first time the territory of the United States extended to the Pacific Ocean. SIDE NOTE: James Polk was the youngest president to serve at the time of his inauguration at just 49 years old and he died of cholera only three months after leaving office. Although there were numerous battles fought during these 2 years, the most compelling story is that of the US army led by General Winfield Scott. He completed the first major amphibious landing of American troops on the beaches near Veracruz. His army consisted of about 10,000 men. The first major battle with the Mexican army that was lead by Santa Anna was fought at Veracruz. Although the Americans were outnumbered 3 to one, they won each battle fought with the Mexican during this campaign. From there, General Scott did the unthinkable. He separated his army from its supply base and began to march inland toward Mexico City. Several major battles were fought along the way from Mid-April to mid-September 1847, many with a high loss of lives on each side. These battles and locations are not names we recognize; Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Molino Del Rey and Chapultepec. This is unlike the familiar names of major Civil War battle locations that where fought; such as Gettysburg, Bull Run, Antietam, etc.) However, many young Americans gave their lives fighting for our country south of our boarder. In the end, the U.S. army was victorious and in February 1848, a Treaty was inked. The treaty called for the annexation of the northern portions of Mexico to the United States. In return, the U.S. agreed to pay $15 million to Mexico for the territory that was gained. Two major reasons for the victory were 1) the superior cannon of the U.S. artillery and 2) the strategies used by the U.S. officers turned the tide against the Mexicans. The war cost the United States over $100 million, and the lives of over 10,000 Americans were lost. America had defeated its weaker foe, but paid a very high price in doing so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Clara Troost Bartels (continued) Clara also stayed at the home of other family members from time to time including Juke and Tena Bartels. This also occurred during 1944 & 1945 while Juke was in the Army Air Corp during WWII and Tena was home with 4 children. Johanna was also later widowed and since her children were grown and married she and Clara moved to Zeeland. They lived in a comfortable home 2 houses distance from the (former) Van Raaltes Restaurant. Later the church near them bought this property for a parking lot and they moved again. This time they moved to modern condominium in Zeeland. Great grandma Bartels treated all the relatives with mittens, sweaters, scarves, booties, slippers and afghans whenever she could. She did beautiful work and a lot of it. Even after she turned 90 hears old she made over 60 Afghans. Great Grandma was always quite healthy. Right up until her late 90’s she was hardly ever ill. However, her hearing began to fail as she got older. In her late 90’s she would usually get rather sick once a year, but with her great will would always bounce back and start working again. At some point in his adult life, John Bartels went to the courthouse for his first set of citizenship papers, but for some unknown reason, he never followed through with the process. Clara never did try to secure her citizenship. She thought it to be too difficult, and besides, she already felt like a citizen since she had been in the U.S. since she was 8 years old. In 1973, LaVerne Hoeksema asked Clara (his grandma)if she was willing to go through the necessary procedure and become a citizen for her 100th birthday. Since the family members offered to do the work, she agreed. What a special event that was for all of the family. At the golden age of 100, she became a citizen of the country where she spent 92 years of her life, and for which her eldest son died in battle to keep her, and all of us free! This was headline news in the Holland Evening Sentinel, the area's daily newspaper. Clara Troost Bartels died on May 30, 1974, 100 years and approximately 6 months after celebrating her 100th birthday. She was a hard working woman who endured much sorry (with the death of 2 children and her husband) and also realized times of great joy. She loved her family and the God that created her, and her family loved her.